Jonny Brodzinski and Tyler Pitlick are favorites to round out Rangers roster
While the New York Rangers continue to give prospects Will Cuylle and Brennan Othmann an extended look, two veterans have emerged as favorites to round out the roster for opening night.
Coming into training camp this preseason, the Rangers invited 32 forwards to battle for 13 roster positions — the 12 who’ll make up the four offensive lines, plus one extra forward. Least desirable is the 13th spot on offense, as no player wants to be the likely healthy scratch almost every game. But the hope for players even in the 13th forward competition is to be in line for an opportunity to present itself to show what they can do.
Now that the training camp’s roster is down to 25, one of the few open questions is centered on what’s best for Cuylle and Othmann this season. The thought process being, if Cuylle or Othmann make the lineup, they’ll be an everyday player. Otherwise, they’d benefit more from playing regularly with the AHL Wolf Pack; and not just being a bench warmer or alternate.
However, for Brodzinski and Pitlick, the considerations are a little different. Both are established veterans that are suited for fourth-line or limited duties. What remains to be seen is which player will make it as the extra forward to start the season.
Jonny Brodzinski’s time in pro hockey
Drafted 148th overall by the LA Kings in 2013, Brodzinski’s been with the Rangers organization since the 2020-2021 season and has spent most of that time with the AHL Wolf Pack serving as their captain.
Brodzinski is 30 years old and has played in a total of 44 games for the Rangers over the last three seasons. Prior to arriving in New York, the forward played 57 games split between the LA Kings and the San Jose Sharks.
For his NHL career, the AHL captain has a total of nine goals and eight assists, and an overall +/- of 10. Brodzinski has spent a number of games over his professional career as a healthy scratch at the NHL level, and in the current training camp he’s clearly been making a push to make the Blueshirts’ roster — ideally as a regular forward and not as a bench player.
Notable about the 30-year-old is he has 160 career shots on goal while averaging just 10:01 minutes ice time, so he’s an aggressive player who’s not afraid to aim for the net even if his shooting percentage is only 5.6%. The Hartford captain has also accumulated 92 hits during his NHL time, adding to the impression he’s an assertive presence on the ice.
Head coach Peter Laviolette seems to have taken notice of Brodzinski’s play style during training camp and had this to say after the home preseason game against the NJ Devils, prior to the away game versus the NY Islanders:
“Really good impressions. I thought he and his line the other night were excellent,” Laviolette praised. “It’s his speed, his tenacity… That’s the fourth look for him. Those are earned, too. They’re not just given, they’re earned and I think he’s played really well.”
Brodzinski is earning the league minimum salary this season on a two-way, two-year contract, and unless re-signs, becomes a UFA at the end of the season.
Tyler Pitlick’s pro hockey career
Tyler Pitlick, 31, was selected 31st overall by the Edmonton Oilers in the 2010 draft and has played nine seasons with the Oilers, the Dallas Stars, the Philadelphia Flyers, the Arizona Coyotes, the Calgary Flames, the Montreal Canadiens, and the St. Louis Blues. Throughout all these stints were a couple of PTOs and trades; yet overall the Minneapolis native has played a total of 386 games in the NHL.
Pitlick’s accumulated a total of 105 points over his playing career, is pretty evenly split between 55 goals and 50 assists. His overall shooting percentage is 10.8%, not surprising for a player who’s bounced around as much as he has. The veteran player’s pattern has been pretty representative of most NHL forwards: the more he plays, the better his performance. Pitlick’s most productive years were those with Dallas, Philadelphia, and St. Louis, in which he played the highest total of games for his career.
During those years, Pitlick amassed a total of 37 even strength goals, or 67% of his career goal total. Notable is that Pitlick has but one power play goal and one power play assist — as well as but one shorthanded goal and one shorthanded assist — over the past nine years, indicating he hasn’t been viewed as a regular special teams player, but rather as more productive at full strength. The nine-year veteran has been noted, however, by multiple sources for his strong forecheck, which may cement a role for him on the Blueshirts this season.
Last season with the Blues was one of the forward’s most productive, and he told The New York Post on Monday, “I think I got back to myself in St. Louis. I had a bit of a down year the year before, but kind of got back to playing my game and consistently bringing something for the team every night. Just playing hard on the forecheck.”
Pitlick has earned some special praise from Laviolette, as well:
“I’ve been really impressed with Tyler’s game, just from a work-ethic standpoint,” Laviolette remarked. “He skates well. He’s big, he’s strong, and can play physical… Another good pickup and signing by Chris (Drury).”
The battle for the few remaining spots on the Rangers’ roster continues. This week’s exhibition games in which they once again face both the NJ Devils and the Boston Bruins should be very telling.